The ultimate test

Thank you, people for all the warm and supportive welcome this blog has had! It is wonderful. In response your comments, no my products are definitely, absolutely, NOT tested on animals. The past few months I have been experimenting wildly with different recipes, trying to think what people would like to use. My family was persuaded to volounteer for testing, so all my stuff has been tested on humans, not animals. Not surprisingly, they were the worst critics, nobody is a prophet in their own home town it is said, and this certainly was true for the oils and soaps. So when something got the thumbs up from the family, I considered it to have passed the ultimate test.

First prize for commitment above and beyond the call of duty must go to my one year old niece, who actually ate my baby soap the other day. I’ve been working on a very mild and gentle version of the buchu soap, fragrance free because babies really don’t need anything to make their skin any softer or sweeter than it already is. I had given a gaily wrapped bar to her big brother for testing, niece waited for the opportune moment, grabbed the bar and ate it. She has been practicing climbing lately, you know once they start to walk they get into everything, and since this niece has discovered she can get up on things she has been unstoppable. Fortunately she was persuaded to bring it up again, I mean, I know my soap is edible but I hadn’t meant for anybody to actually eat it…

I do think every generation is more intelligent than the one before, and certainly these latest nephews and nieces are proving this theory to be true. I am convinced little niece waited until she saw everybody’s attention was elsewhere for a minute. She is a remarkably smart young person.

Be that as it may, so we have proved by the experimental method that my soap is absolutely and completely safe. It could not be safer. I would much prefer for people not to eat it, though.

More seriously, it has been said about herbs that they have passed the test of centuries of use. This is definitely true of Khoesan herbs. I very rarely go by what has been written about those herbs, it seems to me that the historical Khoesan had a distinct sense of humour, and nowhere more so than when answering questions from travel writers of questionable sobriety. If you were to believe half of what has been written about indigenous plants, you would be surprised that we are not immortal beings who fly.

During the decades that I have studied this, I began from the written records, but spent a lot of time sitting around with little old ladies verifying actual uses in different times and places. I also spent a lot of time climbing mountains and walking through field and forests, it is amazing how fit old ladies can be. I then devoted myself to testing this knowledge amongst my friends and family. People may have found me a bit strange, I did not have enough of the diseases myself and so I became known as the one who, when somebody came to me with an illness would say:”Oh, fantastic, I haven’t had that one, but try this treatment and let me know how it goes!.” Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. I would make a point of testing every substance on myself first, and only once did I suffer really ill effects. My research was complicated by the fact that herbal use is not an exact science, the strength of plants varies depending on the time of year they are harvested, where they grow, and so on. Some, like buchu, also contain such a broad range of substances, it is the very opposite of western pharmacology where one substance is seen to have one activity. Buchu, for instance, is what has been called an adaptogenic herb, which is to say it boosts the immune system by strengthening the body’s ability to cope with stress. It is this quality, amongst others, which is responsible for the many different reported uses of the plant. It requires a very different method of analysis then invented chemicals, centuries of use versus double blind clinical trials. Slowly, over the years, I have managed to verify or disprove most of the uses that had been recorded for the most common indigenous plant medicines. That is the knowledge that goes into my oils and soaps.

As for animals, well, I grow catmint in my garden. I wipe an old toothbrush in the leaves and brush the cat with it now and then. It seems to work against the fleas. And the cat says he is happy.

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